World Council of Optometry

Developing a Professional Association


Associations are formed in order to bring a particular sector together to reach a common goal whether for legislative, educational and/or social reasons.  If the country does not have any organized body representing optometry, it may initially take a few committed optometrists in the country to step up to volunteer their time and start the association.

Why is it good to start an Optometry Association?

Growing optometry in a country is best served by one strong professional body that will represent optometrists working in the different sectors (private, public, industry and education). A credible, collective voice with common goals will be able to achieve much more than a number of splinter groups/associations in a country. The association will lobby for the profession to be formally recognized and remain at the forefront of growing the profession of optometry.

As the goal is to represent the interests of the optometrists in the country, it serves a very different role to the optometry regulatory body. However, it is usually the association that advocates for the development of a regulatory body in the respective country.

Setting up the first Board of the association.

  • Establishing a strong, well-functioning Board is very important for the success and longevity of the association
  • If possible, choose people who are committed, passionate about optometry development and recognized by their professional colleagues
  • Select an odd number of people for voting purposes
  • Try to include individuals who represent different areas of the industry (private, public, industry and education)
  • Select people who have the time (and in some cases, the money) to give to the new association


The 1st step for the new Association Board to take:

  • The new board members must define, in detail, the specific purpose of the new association,
  • Decide on a name and a logo for the new association. It is usually best to include the profession and country name for a national association eg. Italian Optometry Association or Optometry Association of Chile.

Drafting of the Mission Statement

  • Use the purpose of the new association as the starting point
  • Incorporate what will be the member benefits into the statement
  • Define the Vision of the association in one or two sentences only
  • Should be a broad statement to allow for change throughout the years

Deciding on who qualifies for Membership

  • Determine the number of optometrists in the country that could be potential members
  • Get their contact information to be able to send out information on the association
  • The letter inviting other optometrists to join must detail the benefits of becoming a member, what will be the annual fees and a membership application form.
  • Some of the benefits that the association may offer includes
    • regular association publications,
    • a group insurance plan,
    • discounted registration fees to certain meeting(s) throughout the year,
    • discounted fees on certain products offered through your corporate partners,
    • collective lobbying efforts, etc.


Should the Association be Incorporated or not?

  • Most associations choose to be incorporated
  • Most countries/states require incorporated non-profits to hold an annual meeting and take minutes, as well as follow other guidelines
  • It is highly recommended to consult an attorney regarding incorporation, tax-exempt status and other legal obligations
  • Once determined, file the association with the relevant government authority to register for taxes etc.
  • Ensure that the association is well informed

Define what the Income and Expenses of the Association will be

  • Membership Fees – Whether there will be one set cost for all members or different options based on income, size of practice, individual vs. group practice, etc., the fee structure needs to be reflective of the industry
  • Non-Dues Income – This could include sponsorships, grants, registration fees, partnerships with industry partners, contributions from Board Members, etc. and is very important to an association’s bottom line since membership numbers will fluctuate from year to year
  • Annual Budget – Once the income and expenses are determined, it is imperative to set an annual budget based on the projected income and expenses so the Board and its members know how much money is allotted for each of the activities of the association


Write up the Bylaws of the Association

  • The leadership may examine bylaws of other associations to determine how to draft them.
  • The Bylaws will define the structure of the association, serve as a guideline for procedures, reflect the image of the association and may be required when applying for tax-exempt status
  • You need to include the following in the Bylaws:
    • membership categories and qualifications;
    • membership benefits and services;
    • appointment procedures for board members, their roles, qualifications and terms of office;
    • election procedures
    • committees that form the structure of the association and their respective terms of reference
    • other topics related to the members and board members


What type of Management is best suited for the Association?

  • Volunteer Staff – The Board Members would volunteer their time and do everything for the association. May have expenses paid for and receive a per diem for meeting attendance etc.
  • Volunteer Staff plus Full-Time Employee(s) – The Board Members would volunteer their time along with the required paid employees working out of a central office paid for by the association
  • Stand-Alone Association – A large staff of paid employees working out of a central office paid for by the association
  • Association Management Company – Hire an association management company so the association doesn’t have to pay employee benefits and payroll expenses or have the expense of a central office

List of activities that an optometry Association will engage in:

  • Support its members in all aspects of professional development
  • Provide professional guidance and clinical guidelines
  • Raise awareness of the profession with the public, government bodies and ministries
  • Advocate the role of the profession in delivering eye person centred eye health care
  • Create policies which set out a view as to what should happen or change in the healthcare system
  • Set up a billing system to collect dues from members
  • Develop relationships with industry to acquire non dues revenue for financial strength of association
  • Develop a public relations program to educate the public and other healthcare profession, but can be used for governmental agencies, regulators, and administrators
  • Advocate for the profession with all branches of government and all agencies within the government
  • Monitor all legislation, policies and regulations in the country watching for any effect it may have on the profession
  • Develop and advocate for legislation to push the profession forward
  • Comment on any policy or regulation that may affect the profession
  • Provide advocacy training programs to educate its members on how to interact and promote any legislation affecting the profession
  • Provide materials for individual members to use in office to make more efficient and communicate about the profession both in office and locally
  • Develop and run continuing education classes for members as required that have a fee to attend
  • Develop and interact with third party payors to monitor and possible input regarding reimbursement concerns, covering procedures performed by profession
  • Monitor the government and other healthcare professions for possible appointment opportunities to committees/commissions of individual members
  • Work on developing relations with other healthcare professions


Vision and Mission

It is important in the early stages of developing an association to create a vision and mission statement. Your vision statement will define the purpose of your organization and the desired future results. Your mission statement focuses on what your association does, who you serve and how you serve them.


Business News Daily – What is a Vision Statement?

ClearVoice – Difference Between Vision and Mission Statements: 25 Examples

Professional Board Composition and Guidelines for Appointment

A regulatory body must be set up and given powers by statute. The purpose of the board is oversight over
the profession of optometry and to protect the public, not the doctors. The regulatory board will put in
place rules and regulations to implement the statute. It will further define the statute on how the
profession operates and how the Regulatory board also operates. read more >>

Resources by Country:

Professional Ethics

Optometry has always strived to be an honorable profession. Optometrists have an ethical responsibility to  patients, colleagues, other health care professionals and the public. Therefore, it is recommended that your professional organization develop a professional code of ethics.

WCO Resources:

Resources by Country:


Governance means the process of decision making and process by which decisions are implemented
or not. It can refer to government or in this situation, regulatory bodies. The good principles of
governance are: ethical conduct, rule of law, efficiency and effectiveness, transparency and
accountability.

Sample Constitution Resources by Country:

Sample Bylaw Resources by Country:

Other Policy Resources by Country:


It will be critical to develop your membership structure for your association in the early stages of development. Considerations include:

  • What are the benefits of an individual/organization joining your association?
  • What will your members need to be successful and how can you assist?
  • What criteria is necessary to become a member for individuals and organizations?
  • What is a reasonable amount to charge members to join your association?
  • How will you gain new members?

Hosting a Founding Meeting

To hold your first official meeting of your association these steps need to take place:

  1. Follow local guidance for your association to be recognized in accordance with local laws.
  2. Consider who to invite – those who have been instrumental in the start of the association, those who will provide expertise, and those who will help the association be successful.
  3. Set a meeting day/time that is reasonable for all attendees.
  4. Send an agenda which should include:
    1. Welcome and Apologies for Absence
    2. Appointment of a Chair and Secretary
    3. Report on any Necessary Next Steps for your Association to be recognized in accordance with local laws
    4. Adopt a Constitution and/or Bylaws
    5. Appointment of Officers
    6. Designate a Principal Office
    7. Any Other Business
    8. Adjournment
  5. At some point, your association will also need to consider opening a bank account. This discussion could take place during the founding meeting.


NonprofitAlly – Hold Your First Nonprofit Meeting

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is necessary to help organize the association to set priorities, strategy and direction of the association. It is necessary to create a strategic planning document to communicate the goals of the organization and the actions necessary to achieve the goals outlined.

Resources by Country:

Sample Policies

Depending on the mission and vision of the association, different policies may be necessary to develop.

Resources by Country:

WCO Country Member Associations

WCO Country Members play an important part in supporting the development and advancement of global optometry. Learn more about other WCO Country Members by visiting their websites. read more >>


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